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These are sad times for our schools

Re: School official Maher loses job:

When Tom Maher first came to work for the Citrus County School System, I welcomed him. I had the opportunity to work closely with him as a former member of the Citrus County School Board. I once worried aloud to him that he might, like the assistant superintendent before him, become a point-man covering for questionable behaviors of the superintendent. I wondered if Maher, like others in top leadership positions, would betray loyalty to principles for loyalty to a person for the sake of the safety and security of a paycheck and a position of status.

Although Maher appeared uncomfortable with my words, he assured me he would not, and that he was not that kind of person. Over the years I watched him maneuver some precarious political predicaments. I learned to respect him as intelligent and efficient. Today I know that what he said to me that day was true.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote "To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive." There are plenty of people who silently accept what they know in their hearts to be wrong. There are plenty of people who have given up their souls, but convince themselves that because they are constantly saying "Amen" that there is something sacred about their capitulation.

Superintendent Pete Kelly will have no trouble filling the vacancy left by Maher's untimely firing. Lots of people are anxious to move up the ladder of "success" in order to increase their income, their status, and to add a good "high five" years to their retirement package.

The job description for Maher's replacement should read something like this:

WANTED: Enabler. Conformist. Yes-person willing to labor in the service of someone else's ego. Must be blindly loyal to boss. Must be faithfully silent. Must be an unquestioning follower. Need to know fine art of tiptoeing. Must be willing to obediently follow orders and recommendations without justification or explanation.

The loss of Tom Maher to the school district is bad enough. The greater loss is yet to come. This action can have no other effect than that of a volcanic blast to the intellectual life of the county school system. The message left in the ashes is this: Voice no opinion that is contrary to the superintendent's.

The terrible irony of that message, when delivered by an educational institution, must not be missed. To punish dissenting views and to shut down inquiry and dialogue is a recipe for tyranny and parochialism. It is not a philosophy likely to foster human growth and development for those who work in the system, or for those who are supposed to be served by it our children.

This is a sad time for Citrus County.